ZIMBABWE’S human rights record has continued worsening on President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s watch over the past five years, amid calls for the government to adhere to constitutionalism to protect people’s rights, a new report has revealed.
According to the latest review published this week by human rights watchdog Amnesty International titled “Zimbabwe: Human Rights Under Attack“, the country has failed to remedy the repressive legacy left by Mnangagwa’s predecessor, the late Robert Mugabe.
The report, which reviews the human rights situation in the period between 2018 and 2023, has urged the African Union and the Southern Africa Development Community to pay close attention to the deteriorating human rights situation to ensure safety of Zimbabweans.
“Amnesty International further calls upon the African Union (AU) to pay close attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Zimbabwe. Amnesty International requests that the AU call on Zimbabwe to uphold its human rights obligations under the AU Constitutive Actand the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
“The organisation has previously called upon Heads of State and Government in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) to redouble their efforts to ensurethe Zimbabwe authorities end human rights violations in the country.
“Electoral processes in Zimbabwe have traditionally been characterised by increasedviolations of human rights. SADC must play a role to ensure that Zimbabweans are safe and that authorities uphold human rights before, during and after all elections.”
Findings by the review show that the government has ramped up efforts to suppress human rights, with individuals who speak out or organise protests facing persecution, and with family members being targeted and harassed in order to intimidate activists.
“Abductions have also been on the rise, further exacerbating the human rights situation. Although the Constitution enshrines the right to freedom of expression, journalists, opposition party members and critics of the government who speak out on and offline are harassed or arrested for speaking out against human rights violations,” reads the report.
“Activists and political party leaders have been criminalised for exercising their right to dissent. Socio-economic rights continue to be eroded in Zimbabwe with access to healthcare being inadequate, especially for women and girls’ enjoyment of sexual and reproductive rights.”
Amnesty International says the Mnangagwa regime has introduced repressive tools to close the civic space over the past five years, a continuation from Mugabe who in 2002 assented to the now repealed Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa).
The provisions of Aippa were used by the government to silence dissenting voices, with at least 21 journalists arrested and charged under various provisions of the Act in 2003, a year after its inception.
Mnangagwa has however introduced repressive laws which include: the Cyber and Data Protection Act [Chapter 12:07] (No. 5 of 2021); the Freedom of Information Act, 2020 (which replaces Aippa); and the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act [Chapter 11:23].
The draconian Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill, H.B. 10, 2021 has since lapsed before presidential assent.
“This legislative agenda is not dissimilar to the “tools of repression” introduced by the Mugabe government at the turn of the millennium. Instead, the Zimbabwean government has carried on in the same tradition, using the law as an instrument of oppression and a means of cracking down on human rights.”
Mnangagwa has been under fire for violently thwarting the constitutional right to protest, in tactics similar to the Mugabe playbook, according to the review.
For instance, six unarmed citizens were killed by the military in the wake of the 1 August 2018 shootings in which opposition MDC-Alliance supporters were protesting the delay in the release of the 2018 general election results.
“The delay in releasing the election results may have caused anxiety among the electorate due to past events. In 2008, the presidential election took place on 29 March, but the results were not announced until 2 May 2008. The Chairperson of the election management body attributed the delay to the need for ‘meticulous verification of the results’,” reads the review.
“In the aftermath of the announcement of the results, and consequently, the need for a run-off, Mugabe engaged in a violent campaign that resulted in the death of over 200 Zimbabweans. Even before the 2018 polls had been held, there were several reports of intimidation against the electorate that were reminiscent of the Mugabe government.
“The period leading up to the 30 July election was marred by reports of intimidation in rural areas. Military personnel and intelligence agents were deployed to villages and sometimes went to people’s homes, particularly in Mutoko and Domboshava in Mashonaland East, telling villagers to ‘vote right’.”
Security forces also violently quashed the January 2019 fuel protests called for by Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), after Mnangagwa had announced an increase in fuel prices, raising outrage.
In the aftermath of the protests, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights (ZADHR) reportedly treated 343 people for injuries.
Among these cases, 78 individuals had suffered gunshot wounds, while four had been bitten by dogs, according to the review. — STAFF WRITER.